Pros: engaging characters, quirky without being over-the-top
Cons: doesn't feel like a young adult novel
My latest crazy idea is adding books to my hold list at the library every time I read a review that sounds promising. This, of course, is why I have no idea how I learned of Jandy Nelson's young adult novel The Sky Is Everywhere.
::: The Plot :::
Lennon (Lennie) is a junior in high school when her world falls completely apart. Her nineteen-year-old sister dies unexpectedly of a previous-undiagnosed heart condition, leaving Len and her unconventional family (made of of her grandmother and her uncle) to figure out how to go on living.
Len's mother abandoned her to the care of her eccentric grandmother when she was a baby, and they live with her uncle, known as Big, a frequently-marrying, pot smoking arborist with a handlebar moustache and a strange outlook on life and love.
Compounding Len's confusion about how to go on without her sister are her sister's boyfriend Toby, who seems to be expressing an inappropriate attraction to her that she may or may not be drawn to, the incredibly attractive new boy, Joe Fountaine, who showed up at school while Len was out, and her best friend Sarah, who just can't manage to understand how Len feels in her grieving.
::: It's a Great Book, But... :::
The Sky Is Everywhere is recommended for grades 10 and up, but I think even that recommendation is pushing it. The reason? Not because of rampant drug use (although there is a great deal of underage drinking and Big's pot use) and not because of underage sex, but because of the overall tone of the novel. This is a young adult book that feels much more like it was written for adults.
While Len and company engage in all the typical teenage rebellion and angst, the processing of those behaviors--as well as how all the characters deal with and resolve their grieving--doesn't ring as true with the young adult crowd. The teens are preternaturally well-adjusted and able to work through their subconscious motivations fairly easily, something most adults with decades of therapy under their belts should be so lucky to accomplish.
Still, the writing is brilliant, and Nelson manages to accurately describe the grieving process in devastatingly few words. The Sky Is Everywhere is a great read, just better suited to adult-adults rather than the younger version.